Brad Guzan or Nick Rimando – Who will replace Tim Howard for USA?

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After Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando play 45 minutes each for the USA against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, it seems as though the battle to replace Tim Howard over the next 12 months isn’t as straightforward as we thought.

Guzan was, and probably still is, the favorite to replace Howard long-term, but Rimando’s second half display against the Czechs was nothing short of sensational and reminded us all of his sublime, if unconventional, talent.

[RELATED: Player ratings, USA vs. Czech Rep.]

Howard’s year-long sabbatical has thrust this discussion into the limelight, as fans of U.S. soccer have long been clambering for Guzan to get more of a chance in goal. How many times have you heard “too bad for Guzan, he has Timmy Howard ahead of him” when dsicussing the USA’s squad? The answer: a lot.

However, Rimando was never in that discussion. Until now.

The Real Salt Lake ‘keeper has suffered from being labelled ‘too short’ and ‘too small to be a goalkeeper’ by many out there. But the man who won the Gold Cup with the USA in 2013, and has been pretty much ever present in Klinsmann’s squad since he took over as boss, is now proving just how good he is. A stunning stat was also pulled out by Paul Carr from ESPN, as Rimando has never lost when playing for the U.S. The Californian ‘keeper has a 13-0-2 record in his 15 caps for the Stars and Stripes. So, he’s a bit of a lucky charm, too, if you believe in superstition.

[RELATED: USA beat Czech Republic 1-0 in Prague]

One of the biggest travesties in Major League Soccer is that Rimando has never won the Goalkeeper of the Year award during his 14-year stint in the league. For Miami Fusion, D.C. United and RSL, he has always been reliable and pulls out highlight-reel saves on a weekly basis. Just ask the locals who watch him at the Rio Tinto. They will not have been surprised by the three stunning stops Rimando made late in the game as the Czechs piled on the  pressure. Rimando made two sprawling saves (watch the highlight video above to see how good they were) with his feet and a few more crucial blocks to keep the home side at bay and persevere the USA’s 1-0 lead. Rimando seems to be grasping this fight for the starters spot and is eager to push Guzan all the way for it.

source: AP
Rimando or Guzan, who you got?

[RELATED: Howard’s sabbatical provides chance for Guzan, Johnson, Hamid]

As for Guzan, his rise in the Premier League with Aston Villa has been a sensational story as the former Chivas USA stopper was released by the Villans in 2012. Without a club, Guzan was quickly signed back up by new Villa manager Paul Lambert and has been the number one ever since. He was Villa’s Player of the Year last season and has already recorded two clean sheets from three matches this campaign.

Guzan didn’t have much to do in his first half display against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, but we know his capabilities. He is still the favorite to replace Howard and many believe that at the age of 29, Guzan should be the preferred choice in goal for the U.S. when the 2018 World Cup rolls around. Rimando will be 39 during the World Cup in four years time, so perhaps that gives Guzan the edge too.

Between now and next year when Howard returns, Guzan has a real battle on his hands just to win the starting spot ahead of Rimando. We all know the U.S. is traditionally a powerhouse in producing goalkeepers, but the strength of it’s second and three string ‘keepers is something else when you consider MLSers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson are also lined up behind Guzan and Rimando.

Whoever gets the nod to replace Howard permanently over the next 12 months, the U.S. won’t have to worry about the goalkeeping position for quite some time.

That’s a huge plus, even if it provides Klisnmann with one heck of a headache.

Mascherano still believes Neymar is “the future” of Barcelona

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The Neymar-to-PSG saga has escalated quickly, and signs of the Brazilian’s move to Paris are growing, but one Barcelona player remains confident that his compatriot will stay in Spain ahead of the new La Liga season.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

PSG has shown a willingness over recent days to meet Barca’s worldly $260 million transfer fee for the 25-year-old, while Neymar has reportedly alerted his teammates that he will in fact be heading to the Parc des Princes next month.

Veteran Barcelona midfielder/defender Javier Mascherano is one of the Blaugrana players that hopes Neymar will stick around and help anchor the La Liga giants for years to come despite a possible massive payday in store.

“Obviously he is young and I hope he’s here with Barcelona for many more years,” the Argentina defender said to ESPN.

“He is a really important player for the club. Because of his age, he’s the future of the club and we hope we can keep on counting on him.

“He’s accustomed to the pressure and people talking. There’s always going to be rumours and news around him.

“It’s really difficult to give advice. Firstly, I’m not anyone to be giving advice and secondly, I see him really happy here, really happy. [Barca] are a club that have made it possible for him to perform at his best. But after that, each person has to make their own decisions.”

If Neymar does bolt for Paris the complexion of the MSN-Barca attack changes drastically despite still boasting elite talents Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

[ MORE: Man United drops Man City in Houston “Manchester Derby” ]

Barca has done little in the transfer market this summer, only adding Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo of Benfica. The club continues to pursue Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho, however, the Reds recently rejected a bid of $93 million.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.